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IBNUL-NAFEES AS A PHILOSOPHER

 

Dr. Abu Shadi Al-Roubi
EGYPT

I hope my speech is not a discordant voice in this harmonious song commemorating our great Arab physician, Ibnul Nafees. We live in an age when most doctors know nothing except medicine, and are known by nothing else. Not so were the physicians of the past when a doctor was a "Hakeem"1 in the full sense of the word combining a general background of knowledge, especially of philosophy, with his medical study and practice.

There is a well known classification of Arab physicians dividing them into the physician-philosopher category, such as AI-Razi, and the philosopher-physician category, such as Ibn Sina. In this paper, I will not try to force Ibnul-Nafees into one or the other of these two categories. All I aim to do is to cast light on part of his life and thought that was not adequately covered by research work. Ibnul-Nafees was not only a great physician and discoverer of the minor blood circulation (pulmonary circulation), but he also had many interests, views and works about many other branches of knowledge.

Historians credit him for two books on logic. In the first he explains two of Ibn Sina's works: " Al-Isharat" (The Signs), and  Al-Hidayah" (The Guidance). The second book is entitled ., Al-Wurayqat" (The Little papers) which is a summary of Aristotle's Organon and Rhetoric. On linguistics he wrote "Tareeq Al-Fasaha" (Road to Eloquence) and an explanation of ., Al-Fusous" (The Segments) by the linguist, Said bin Al-Hassan Al-Rab'i Al-Baghdadi. His books on Shari'a are " Al-Mukhtasar fi Ilm Usoulil Hadith" (A Short Account of the Methodology of Hadith), and an explanation of " Al- Tanbeeh" ( Exhortation) by Al-Shirazi, besides "Kitab Fadel bin Natiq" or ., Al-Risalah Al-Kamiliyyah fil Siera Al-Nabawiyyah" (The Kamiliyah Treatise on the Prophet's Biography).

It is this last work that will form the main topic of my speech today. I intend to use it as an introduction to Ibnul-Nafees' thoughts and as the window through which we can have a look at his philosophic views which are very interesting. I have relied in my treatment of this treatise on the very accurate re-edition by Max Mayerhoff and Joseph Shacht of two MSS one of which is at the Egyptian Public Library and the other at the Sulaimania Library in Istanbul. Their work was published in 1966 by Oxford University under the title: "Theologus Autodidactus".

Since the thoughts of a thinker are, to some extent, the reflection of his times and surroundings, I deemed it necessary to pave the way for my article with a brief account of Ibnul-Nafees's social, political and academic background.

You all know that Ala-u-ddin Ibnul-Nafees, also known in the biographies as Ali bin abil Haram Al-Qurashi Al-Dimashqi, lived and died in the 7th century A.H. (13th century A.D.). He lived to be around 80. He was brought up in Damascus where he studied medicine under the city's great physician Muhazzabul-Din Al-Dikhwar. Then. he departed to Cairo where he stayed for the rest of his life in a house of his own. He took up the medical profession and proved to be so talented that he became Chief Physician in Egypt and the court physician of its ruler, Al-Zahir Beibars I-Bindaqdari. He used to teach medicine at the Mansuri Bimaristan (Hospital), established by Al-Mansour Qalawoun, the army leader who succeeded Beibars on the throne. In the meantime, he taught Shari'a and jurisprudence at the Masruriyyah School about which Al-Maqreezi said in his "Khutat" (Layouts) that it was established by Shamsul Khawas Masrour, one of Salahuddin's followers.

No wonder, then, that Ibnul-Nafees is referred to as one of the leading jurisprudents of the Shaf'i rite of fiqh in Tajul-din Al-Subki's book entitled "Tabaqat Al Shaf'iyyah Al-Kubra" (The Upper Levels of the Shaf'i Rite).

At that time, Egypt and Syria were united into one country ruled successively by the Fatimids, the Ayyoubis, and the Memlouks. Among these were Qutuz who conquered the Moguls at Ein-Galout, Beibars and Qalawoun who descended from the Turks of South Russia and Caucasian tribes known as the Kipchak. During their reigns there were ambassadorial and trade relations with Barakah, the Khan of the Golden Horde.

We now turn to Ibnul-Nafees's "Kamiliyah Treatise" for a summary of its history and outline before going into details about the thoughts and views expressed therein.

Ibnul-Nafees wrote this treatise, also known as "Fadel bin Natiq", not as a parody of "Hayy Ibn Yaqzan" by Ibn Sina as stated by Al-Safadi in his book " Al Wafi Bil Wafiyat". In plot and content it is more similar to " Hayy Ibn Yaqzan" written by the Andalusian physician and philosopher Ibn Tufayl a century earlier. Undoubtedly, Ibnul-Nafees must have read it and been influenced by it.

A contrastive study of these three treatises will cast an illuminating light upon Arab thought in its golden age which, as you well know, was preoccupied with reconciliating religion and philosophy and revealing the common grounds between Shari'a and wisdom as Ibn Rushd says in his Faslul Maqal (Final Conclusion).

Therefore, we find that Ibnul-Nafees attempts in his treatise to establish that the human mind in its logical thinking and without any other agent is capable of deducing the necessity of God's existence and the successive messages of the prophets till the last one of them. Furthermore, it is capable of predicting the life story of this last prophet (pbuh) including his birth, emigration to Mecca, His jihad(holy war)and death in addition to the jurisprudence, Shari'a and transactions contained in His message. Even more, Ibnul-Nafees claims that by sheer reflection it was possible to expect the disputes that arose between the Khalifas of this last prophet (pbuh) and the multiplicityof sects and methods in his religion. It was also possible to expect the aggression suffered by his followers at the hands of the atheists and how they would finally repulse it. Then Ibnul-Nafees extends his view to the far future (or, perhaps, the near future) to describe in pure mental terms the end of the world, doomsday, resurrection and the Hereafter.

This, then, is a tour de force around the realms of natural philosophy, the philosophy of history and sociology, and the philosophy of religion. In this treatise there is a bit of everything: biology, geology, cosmology as well as futurology.

Ibnul-Nafees has equipped the hero of his treatise, Kamil, with such mentality. Kamil, so the story goes, is a man brought forth to this world by spontaneous generation and lives on a deserted island in utter seclusion. As for "Fadel bin Natiq", it is only a narrative of Kamil's life and views.

There are many similarities and dissimilarities betwwen the two treatises of Ibnul-Nafees and Ibn Tufayl; between Kamil's thoughts as narrated by Fadel bin Natiq and the thoughts of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. Both try to establish that a spontaneously generated human being living on a deserted island is capable of hitting upon the natural, philosophical and religious truths of this universe through the sole agent of his mental contemplation. It is thus an attempt to bring religion in harmony with philosophy as we said before. To do this, however, both authors had to postulate two things unacceptable to true religion: the possibility of originating life on earth through a process of spontaneous generation, and the possibility of reaching the truths of religion through sheer contemplation without any other agent.

As for the dissimilarities between the two treatises, they are quite a lot. Ibn Tufayl's hero begins as a baby brought up by a female gazelle. Kamil, on the other hand, begins his life at the age of puberty. The former discovers by himself the use of fire, cooking, and dressing himself in clothes; the latter learns about these things from visitors who come to his island and tame him. Here Ibnul-Nafees makes a point of stressing that civilization comes as a result of human contacts. The advent of visitors to the deserted island is used by both authors for different purposes. While Ibn Tufayl makes them bear witness to the truth of what his hero managed to learn independently through his own thinking and contemplation, Ibnul-Nafees makes them the means of Kamil's passage to the outer world where the scope of his vision becomes wider and where he can see the confirmation of what he has individually learned.

In general, we can safely say that Ibn Tufayl was inclined in this treatise towards Sufi contemplation, whereas Ibnul-Nafees's tendency was towards mental philosophy. But the distinguishing feature of Ibnul-Nafees's treatise that makes it more peculiar is its outlook to the future and its delving into matters of human destiny. It is not merely a treatise on the biography of the prophet, but goes far beyond that to the wider range of the human biography; the Homo Sapiens; his past, his present, and his future.

So much for a comparison between the two treatises. Let's now turn to a more detailed review of Al-Kamiliyah Treatise. 'lbnul-Nafees says:

"My purpose in this treatise is to relate what Fadel bin Natiq narrated about a man called Kamil with regard to the prophet's biography and the norms of the canonical law in general terms, ordering my narration into the following four arts:

First, the way this man called Kamil took shape and came to know about the truths and prophetships.
Second, how he got to know about the prophet's biography.
Third, how he came to conclusions about the norms of the canonical law.
Fourth, how he could predict what would happen after the death of the last Prophet, (pbuh)
and upon all His predecessors.

FIRST ART

In the first chapter Ibnul-Nafees tells us how the man called Kamil takes shape by spontaneous generation. He says: "Once upon a time there was a huge inundation in an island of mild weather, lush with fruitful trees. The torrential stream carried with it multifarious muds washed out of a variety of soils that were flooded by it. Part of the stream water seeped into a cave in a mountain and filled it. Under the heat of the cave, the water which mixed with the soil reached the simmering point until it thickened into clay from which various limbs and organs could take shape owing to the variety of the soil from which the clay was formed. From this heated clay vapours emanated. From one of these vapours, which was as mild as air, a human soul was formed giving a human being his complete and final form."

"But that human being spontaneously generated in a cave is different from anyone born in a womb in that he has been feeding and growing in the cave for a much longer time, just as a chick feeds in an egg. So he emerges from the cave a full grown boy with a strong body and sharp perception."

This, then, is Kamil, the hero of the story. How he gains knowledge and wisdom is dealt with in the second chapter which Ibnul-Nafees sets aside for what is termed in philosophy as "epistemology" conceived of by Ibnul-Nafees as a blend of empiricim and teleology. When Kamil gets out of the cave he beholds the vast space, the dazzling light and lush trees. He hears the singing birds, the rippling water and the rustling wind. He smells the fragrant flowers and tastes the delicious fruits and feels the hot and cold air. In short, his first contact with his surroundings is through his five senses and what they perceive of the outer world. Soon, he turns to experimentation. "He ripped open the bellies of such animals as he could lay his hands on or those that he found dead. He did that with no other tool except his finger-nails or sharp-pointed stones. Thus he learned a lot about the functions of the animal organs (physiology). Then teleology followed, through which he learned that each part of an animal or plant was there for a specific purpose and nothing was there purposelessly."

"Then he began to wonder if the existence of these creatures, so perfectly designed, was of their own making or the making of a Creator. If it is by a Creator, who this Creator is and how He looks like.

Following a logical line of thought he came to the conclusion that the Creator of what is possible must be impossible to create. That is, He is a Creator whose existence must be prior to anything that exists; and He must be omniscient and omniobservant. "Otherwise, there would be an infinite chain of causes and effects."

It is clear how much Ibnul-Nafees depends on Greek philosophy for proving God's existence. He employs the notion of "the prime mover unmoved" and cautions against falling into the contradiction labelled by logicians as "infinite regress". In general, he argues from the premise known by theologians as "The Argument from Design".

In the third chapter Ibnul-Nafees resorts to a narrative technique that enables him to tackle sociology after covering nature and epistemology. He says: "It so happened that a ship packed with merchants and other passengers was stranded on that island. Waiting for the dented ship to be repaired, the passengers had no other alternative but to stay on the island. They fanned out in search of wood for their fire and fruits for sustenance. Catching sight of them, Kamil shyed away at first. They offered him a piece of bread and a little of the food they had carried along with them. Nibbling at this, Kamil liked the taste of it especially as he had never experienced man-made food before.

Gradually, he began to feel at ease with them. They dressed him in clothes and laboured to teach him their language. By and by he picked up a lot of it. It was then possible to tell him about their cities and ways of life, at which he was utterly amazed as he never imagined there could be land beyond his island. He became so curious to know more about their world that he wished to go with them. They took him to a town near the island. He lived among the people of that town, eating their food and wearing their clothes. He felt so happy especially when he recalled the coarse and primitive life he had led on the island. The experience taught him a lot. He learned that living alone without such man-made food and man-made clothes could not be a pleasure. He learned that in order to be civilized man must live in a community of inter-dependent people some of whom would undertake to till the land, others to cultivate it, others to bake and others to make clothes, and so on."

Here is a clear difference between Ibn Tufayl and Ibnul-Nafees in how each views "Robinson Crusoe" Ibnul-Nafees stresses that for man to be civilized he must live in an integrated community where individuals must share work responsibilities.

This opinion is as old as the Greek thought voiced before Ibnul-Nafees by Al-Farabi in his Utopia and later adopted by Ibn Khaldoun when he described man as civilian by nature.

After establishing the logical necessity of deity, Ibnul-Nafees goes one further step to establish the necessity of prophetship.

"In this contemplation, Kamil said to himself: If for a nice life one needs this (i.e. living in a community), then one will inevitably need to have various transactions with others such as selling, renting, etc. Such transactions must eventually lead to disputes with personal interests subjectively used as the only criteria for determining what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, in addition to living in a community, happiness cannot be realised unless this community is governed by established laws that are accepted by everybody and by which everybody abides and every dispute is settled. Now, for these laws to be unquestionably accepted by the community, everyone must firmly believe that they are enjoined by God the Almighty. For people to believe that, it must be told to them by a person whose truthfulness nobody doubts.." Describing this person he goes on to say: "He must be a person of such miracles as would make people feel that what he says cannot be false but true revelations from God the Almighty. The person that fits that description must be the Prophet, PBUH, as it would be inconceivable that God neglects the creation of this prophet of .such immense benefit when He cares to create, among other things, the pubic hair of much less importance"'

At this juncture, I would like to set on record an opinion mentioned by Mayerhoff and Shacht to the effect that by claiming that man can spontaneously, and without any agent, get to know about God's existence, and by stressing the necessity of prophetship, Ibnul-Nafees adopted the Matridian point of view; and by so doing he was closer to the Hanafi rite of fiqh than to the Shaf'i rite to which he actually belonged and which was nearer to the Ash'ariyah.

SECOND ART

Ibnul-Nafees devotes the second part of his treatise to the biography of the last one in the string of prophets: his ancestral line, birth place, upbrinqing, description, age, and offspring. He tries to establish how Kamil managed by pure mental contemplation to determine the attributes of this prophet until he comes to the 9th chapter about the name of this prophet when Kamil was almost certain that the name must be .'Muhammad" (PBUH)

It will not be possible, spacewise, to review this part in great detail. So, a brief presentation may suffice for following the logical sequence of Ibnul-Nafees.

About the genealogy of this prophet, Ibnul-Nafees says that he must be of such noble origin as would make people submissive and obedient to him. Now, there can be no nobler origin than that of God's Messengers, and no better one of those than that glorified uniformly by all religions, namely, Ibrahim ( m).Therefore, the Seal of the prophets, Muhammad (PBUH), must descend from him and not from Jacob or Jesus as he should belong neither to Judaism nor to Christianity; otherwise, people would reject him as a blasphemous innovator. The Seal of the prophets, then, must descend from the offspring of Ismael. The noblest of those are the Hashimites to whom his lineage can directly be traced.

As for his birth place, it could be deduced by Kamil through an interesting chain of syllogisms:

1) Bedouins, or Arabs of the desert, are of less developed minds than those who live in cities. Therefore, this prophet must be a city-dweller.
2) Cities compare favourably with desert areas in such matters as mild weather, low prices, abundance of food and water, etc. But the greatest advantage that tips the balance towards a city is religious grandeur in the hearts of the people specially if that city contains a sacred place of worship. Now, the best and oldest such shrine is Al-Kaaba honoured as the first House of God laid for people. It follows, then, that the Seal of the prophets must be born in Mecca.
3) If the prophet died in Mecca and was buried there, then visiting his grave would look as if it was secondary to visiting Al-Kaaba. In the course of time, people would think that pilgrimage to Mecca was for the sole purpose of circling Al-Kaaba and would eventually forget about the prophet and his mission. Therefore, it stands to reason that his grave should be in another city so that travelling to it would be for the sole purpose of visiting his grave, and his greatness would thus be preserved.
4) The prophet's departure from Mecca cannot be of his own choice; it must be out of necessity. Nor can it be a kind of banishment or the result of defeat in war as it does not become a great man. It could only be an emigration to evade a conspiracy to kill him in secret by the atheists.
5) To which city should he emigrate? Undoubtedly to that city where his father died so that if he himself died there his grave would be near that of his father. The city, then, must be Yathrib. 

To be short, this is a model of the logical sequence of finality used by Ibnul-Nafees through personifying the character of Kamil in order to reach these conclusions.

Using the same method, and from the premise that this prophet must be extremely moderate in temperament and manners, Kamil comes to the following conclusions:

1) The prophet's father must die first, to be followed by his mother, so that he could be fostered by a  woman other than his mother and brought up by his grandfather and uncles. All this must happen to make his temperament and manners influenced by his foster-parents.
2) The prophet must be physically symmetrical with a smiling and cheerful face. He must be of sharp perceptions, intelligent, and eloquent as these are the attributes of moderate people.
3) A body of medium strength is usually more susceptible to sickness. The prophet, therefore, is liable to frequent ailments, but his diseases would be short-lived and easily curable.
4) As for his age, he must reach full maturity so that his prophetship may take the required time. Yet, he must die before reaching the age of senility when judgement is impaired. In moderately tempered bodies this optimal time of death is put at the age of 62 or 63.
 5) As this prophet is of moderate temperament, he must beget sons and daughters. The sons should not live long enough to reach the age of prophetship; for they cannot be prophets when their father is the Seal of all prophets. However, not to be prophets would undermine their father as most of the prophets' sons were themselves prophets. As for the daughters, they might live as long as they could because women were not entitled to prophetship.

THIRD ART

In this section of the treatise Ibnul-Nafees discusses, through Kamil of course, the essence of the religious creed. He says: "The prophet should tell the people that they have a Maker, and that this Maker is infinitely magnificent and glorious and must be obeyed and worshipped. He should tell them that there is no God but He and that there is nothing like Him, the All-hearing and Omniscient. He should tell them all the attributes of God indicating His Supremacy and complete Ability. But since the prophet will be addressing himself to a majority of common people he should not delve deep into details beyond their understanding such as saying to them, "God the Almighty is neither inside this world nor outside it. He is not an object, nor is he a tangible form. He is not in a certain direction, nor can he be perceived by anyone of the senses. "Such talk would necessarily make people confused and disarrayed, which defeats the primary purpose of prophetship. Therefore, the prophet must refer to these matters' in general terms leaving out details. However, he should not neglect details per se but should make his words lined with such esoteric symbols and indications as would give the small circle of disciples and followers an inkling to the full details, yet on the face of it his words would not lay demands on the modest understanding of the common people.

It is clear from the above that Ibnul-Nafees takes it for granted that there are common and special people, So, in matters relating to exegesis of the Quran he steers a middle course between two schools of thought in Islam: al-Zahiriyah, characterised by giving the apparent, literal meaning, and al-batiniyah, characterised by divining the hidden, secret meaning in the revealed texts. Yet, he does not indulge in Sufi contemplation as it is the case with Ibn Tufayl.

Then Ibnul-Nafees takes up the question of Resurrection. He says that Kamil thought that the prophet sholJld mention it. But he was not sure how it should be presented to the people. Should the prophet say it will be a resurrection of the soul, of the body, or of both. At this juncture, the author faces a problem that is as old as philosophy itself; namely, the relation between mind and body, or between spirit and matter. Kamil says that the prophet should not make resurrection purely spiritual as most people would fail to conceive spiritual joys and pains. Meanwhile, resurrection should not be presented as purely physical as it would deny both happiness and misery .It should be a resurrection of both body and soul.

I would like here to quote Ibnul-Nafees concerning this problem which still preoccupies philosophers even today.

"Kamil said to himself that man must be made up from a body and a soul. The body is that perceptible object, but the soul is what a person refers to when he says "I". This referent should not be the body or its parts as everyone necessarily knows that he is what he is throughout his life, which cannot be said about the body or its parts. Man's body during childhood is not that of old age. The same applies to the parts of the body. Both the body and its parts are in a continuous state of dissolution and nourishment, so they are inevitably undergoing permanent change. As for the referent ."I", it is a constant. The corollary is that one's soul must be something different from one's body which is a tangible object whereas the soul is an abstract substance that can never be a form; for the body can be valued only by itself, but forms cannot be valued except by substances."

You can see how much novelty and peculiarity this line of reasoning carries with it. But I would like to draw your attention to that part of the quotation which says: "Both the body and its parts are in a continuous state of dissolution and nourishment, so they are inevitably undergoing permanent change"; for this has become now a granted fact in physiology and biology expressed by the term 'metabolism" which comprises the two processes of: catabolism, by which living matter is broken down into simple substances, and anabolism, by which food is built up into living matter.

Philosophers have always tackled the dichotomies of matter and mind, body and soul, form and substance, the perceptible and the conjectured, the concrete and the abstract. But talk about philosophy always takes on a special flavour when the speaker is a scholar or a physician.

Reflecting on the worships, Kamil thought that the prophet should enjoin that his teachings be repeatedly mentioned so that they remain alive in the minds and hearts of his followers. This repetition can be effected in five ways: individual utterance of the two Islamic doctrinal formulas (That there is no God except Allah, and that Muhammad * is His Messenger); through a pure physical act such as prayer; pure physical abstinence such as fasting; or the act may be purely financial such as alms-giving; or combining physical with financial such as pilgrimage.

Of these five pillars of the religion, pilgrimage is the most onerous, so doing it once in a life time will be quite enough. Prayer is the easiest, so people can be made to repeat it several times a day to be reminded of God and His Messenger * Fasting and alms-giving are midway between these two extremes; so each should be enjoined only once a year .

Kamil applies the same rationalism when he considers the financial transactions among the people. He says that a male's share in what is inherited should exceed that of a female though men are normally better able to earn money than women. But when a woman gets married it is the husband who supports her. Concerning marriage, Kamil thought that female polygamy would naturally lead to confusing lineage whereas male polygamy will not. Therefore, the prophet should legalize polygamy for men and prohibit it for women.

FOURTH ART

This fourth and last section of the Kamiliyah Treatise is found only in the MS kept at Istanbul, but missing in the MS of the Egyptian Library. The Egyptian copy, which is much earlier than the Turkish one, is believed to have been written in Ibnul-Nafees's life time. This fourth part might have been deliberately dropped as it dealt with politics and the rulers.

In the initial chapters of this section, Kamil predicts the events that will take place after the death of the Seal of the Prophets. First, there will be a power struggle among the prophet's companions. Secondly, there will be difference in opinions, multiplicity of methods and division of the prophet's creed into various sects each having its own methodology on which books are to be written and for which schools of thought will be established. Thirdly, there will be deviations from the teachings of this prophet who prohibits liquour drinking, as it is hazardous to mental health, and forbids women to appear unveiled before strangers. Finally, there is the punishment for this deviation which will take the form of raids on the followers of this religion by the atheists.

In all these predictions and their underlying rationale, Ibnul-Nafees emerges as a philosopher who believes in historicism or historical determinism. It means that history is moved by irresistible forces and takes directions that can be logically explained. As you know history has as many interpretations as there are schools of thought to do it. Interpretations could be economic, social, biological, psychological, ideological, etc. For interpreting history, Ibnul-Nafees used more than one point of view. Consider, for instance, his geographical interpretation of the identity of the atheists who would overrun the followers of the prophet's religion. He says that, They do not belong to any creed and the prophet's religion has not reached them yet. Therefore, they must be living in remote areas far away from civilized countries. They cannot be living in the Southernmost areas as inhabitants of such areas are weak in hearts because of the sweltering heat in their countries. Therefore, they must necessarily be from the Northernmost areas as these would be daring and ruthless. Yet, they cannot be from the North-west as that area is very thinly populated with most inhabitants living on scattered islands unlike people of the North-east. Thus, by sheer geographical reasoning Ibnul-Nafees was able to narrow it down to the source of aggression: the North-east, i.e. the Tatars and Moguls. Through Kamel he goes on to say: "When these atheists overrun the countries near them in the North where followers of the prophet's religion live they do not bother to change that religion since they have 'no creed of their own to impose on the people. On the contrary, when they mingle with the followers of the prophet's religion they come under the influence of that religion and become affected by it to the extent of embracing it and fighting for it. Thus, they will turn out to be a great asset to that religion.

People in countries too far to be seized by the atheists would need to brace up for resisting the enemies and repulsing them. They can do that only if they manage to mobilize strong armies under the leadership of a brave Sultan. Mobilization of armies would necessarily require increased expenditure the brunt of which will have to be borne by the population. This will inevitably lead to scarcity of cash and less bread-earning opportunities among the people.

As for the Sultan, he should fear nothing, yet be feared by all his subjects. Therefore, he must be intrepid and ruthless. A man of these qualities cannot be of an urban area. He must be from a desert area in the North-east where people are notorious for courage and cruelty. Thus, Ibnul-Nafees would not even allow the Egyptians the luxury of boasting that their courageous leader is one of them. His contention is that only iron can serve to dent iron. But we have to bear in mind the time and place of Ibnul-Nafees's attempt to interpret the past and justify the present. As mentioned before, the better part of his life in Egypt coincided with the reign of Al-Zahir Beibars, and he was still alive when Beibars' successor, Qalawoun, took over. Both rulers were Memlouks with origins extending back to the Kipchak tribes in Caucasia and South Russia. When Ibnul-Nafees describes his sultan in the Treatise as "a man who should be of a hot temperament, dark red face, and a hairy body. He should prefer cold food, jump up in his sleep and see horrendous dreams and get into fits of vomiting and diarrhea," he is in fact describing Sultan Beibars whom he knew only too well as he was his court physician.

Ibnul-Nafees carries on about his sultan: "Every now and then, he must get away from his seat of power and go to the atheists' quarters with the intention of intimidating them and filling their hearts with fear. So, he naturally needs someone to take over and act for him during his absence." Describing this Deputy, Ibnul-Nafees says: The Minister who deputizes for the Sultan must combine courage with kindness and patience; for he has to be pretty sure that God, the Sultan, the people and the military are all pleased with him." In saying this Ibnul-Nafees must have had in mind Qalawoun, Beibar's army leader who succeeded him on the throne of Egypt and who was reputed for being just and merciful. About him, Ibn Tughri Burdi said in his book " Al-Manhal As-Safi" (The Pure Spring): "He was generous, impartial, and righteous. He was the kind of man to loathe the sight of spilt blood and tend to do good and be virtuous. He put an end to many wrongs such as squeezing merchants out of cash every time an army was despatched to the battle front".

The last two chapters of the Treatise can be described as "Science Fiction". From interpreting the past and justifying the present, Ibnul Nafees shifts to the future in a bid to predict it leaning heavily for that on cosmology.

In chapter nine he tells us about what will happen in the upper space. He says: "When the one called Kamil thought of the sun's movement he noticed that it came nearer to the North during summer and went farther away from the south in winter, yet its daily orbit was of the same circumference over the north and south. The same thing could be said about the planets in the solar system. He further noticed that at the North and the South the distance between the sun and the upper space was gradually decreasing, and knew that there would come a point when the sun would be orbiting the earth nearer to the high atmosphere.. Now for this to happen a number of things must obtain: 1) the moon must get farther away from the sun increasing the number of crescents. 2) The sun and all the planets must then rise in the west. 3) The sun will always orbit the earth over the equator causing day and night to be of equal duration in all the countries of the world. 4) The seasons will cease to exist leaving areas that are remote from the equator in a constant state of severe cold and the equator itself with the adjacent areas in a constant state of blistering heat. Climatic conditions will thus be extremely adverse to human life and consequently the people's temperament will be abnormal with evil and crime rampant everywhere.

In the 10th chapter Ibnul-Nafees describes the impact of these space events on people's lives on earth. When the sun shines permanently over the equator making tropical areas unbearably hot and other farther areas unbearably cold, people's temperament will become abnormal. They will grow weak of hearts and sudden death will become a common occurrence. They will deteriorate in terms of manners and exchanges and will fly to arms at the most trivial cause. The evil people will take the lead, relegating the good ones to the back seats. People's minds will so rot that they will not be open for learning. Even their images will undergo change with most of them looking beastly. As the death toll in wars will claim the lives of men, women will have to fall back to lesbianism. Areas with relatively mild climate will become attraction points to people of extremely hot or extremely cold countries such as the Sudan, Turkey, the Tatars, Yagoug and Magoug, upsetting the balance of supply of vegetables and fruits and the demand for them with the concomitant rise in prices. Farther deep under the ground, hot winds and fumes are generated and pushed up in the tropical areas whereas they thicken and get trapped in the cold areas. The subterran at the two poles will then become much heavier than at the central areas of the earth. This imbalance will cause mountains to collapse and sea water to inundate the land. Earthquakes will result as well as eclipses causing the trees to dry up and fire to break out in the sulphuric land of Yemen extending until it overwhelms the equatorial areas. The atmosphere will then darken with nothing to illuminate it except lightening and thunderbolts.

With this hair-raising image, Ibnul-Nafees depicts the end of the world and Doomsday. The image is derived from knowledge of astronomy and geology available in his age. How, in the light of this image, will the resurrection be? In answer to this question Ibnul-Nafees says: After the cessation of the sun's declination, another declination must obtain for the movement of the fixed stars to be maintained. Upon the increase of this fresh declination the earth will be back to normal and the atmosphere will be suitable for animal life. If much rain falls in winter and the water mixes with the soil under the heat of the sun producing fungi it will be good for generating the bodies of men and animals. The human soul will then be able to nourish that tiny particle called "coccy" which is what remains of the body after it dies and degenerates. The soul will then inhabit that particle and people will thus be resurrected into their previous forms. This is resurrection, and praise be to God, the All-Able, the Omniscient."

Thus ends our tour of the past, present and future with Ibnul-Nafees. He tries to convince us that things could not be better, and that all creeds could be deduced mentally from the facts of the sciences. Hence, no contradiction between religion and science, or between the ordained laws and wisdom.

It is worth noting that he used in this Treatise the same methodology that had led him to discover the pulmonary blood circulation, namely the teleological methodology. His hero, Kamil is nothing more than the embodiment of the perfect man in Islam.

At the outset of this speech I said that I had no intention of classifying Ibnul-Nafees into the philosopher-physician or the physician - philosopher category. I will make do with two opinions about him mentioned by the two most important biographers of the man. In "Masalikul Absar" (The Ways of Visions), Al-'Amri says: "Although Ibnul-Nafees was fully acquainted with (theoretical) medicine with all its ramifications, he was not that brilliant in matters relating to treatment. His prescriptions were not outstanding."

Commenting on Ibnul-Nafees's Treatise, Al Safadi said in his "Al-Wafi bil Wafayat" (Comprehensive Reviews): "I have read a little book by him in which he parodizes the Treatise of Hayy bin Yaqthan which he entitled "Fadel bin Natiq". In this little book he advocates Islam and its views on prophetships, laws, physical resurrection and the end of the world. By God, he did so well and proved to be an able writer, a deep thinker and a master in secular sciences." After all, I leave it to you to make your own judgement.